Elected Texas comptroller in 2006, Susan Combs led an initiative that made a broad range of government spending data available to the public. She currently spearheads the Texas ERP project, which is creating statewide financial and human resources systems that will be shared by Texas agencies. In February, Combs received the Bob Bullock Award for Outstanding Public Stewardship, which is presented annually at Government Technology's GTC Southwest in Austin, Texas.
You've been a big proponent of transparency. Why is that so important?
I'm a taxpayer. I get very irritated when folks who have my money don't tell how they're spending it. On my third day in office, we rolled out all of my agency's expenditures down to the pencil level. We found it relatively simple using NIGP [National Institute of Governmental Purchasing] codes.
In October 2007 we launched Where the Money Goes, the online checkbook register for the state. It is refreshed every night. It's about a half-billion dollars a day that we track. And we're going to launch Where the Money Comes From, so you can see the sources of revenue for the state.
Video: Texas-Style Transparency: Texas Comptroller Susan Combs describes her efforts to help citizens track state spending.
Describe how you've used data mining to capture additional sales tax revenue.
We got news that some convenience stores that sell alcohol and tobacco products were taking the sales tax in from customers and leaving it in their cash register, so we began getting monthly alcohol and tobacco data that we cross-match with sales tax reports.
We've already captured about $120 million in sales taxes because of this data mining. We collected nearly $90 million the first year, and already this year we're at $35 million.
How are you approaching the statewide enterprise resource planning (ERP) deployment?
We called other states, read material on it and tried to avoid some pitfalls. We ended up with the goal of creating four separate hubs, not one hub for the entire state. We did an RFP, and the project has been launched. The Comptroller's Office is working with the Texas Department of Transportation, for all of its financial planning, as well as the Texas Health and Human Services System for all of its payroll systems and HR. Those will become the first two mother ships on which other agencies will hang.
When will those projects be complete?
By Aug. 31, 2011 we'll have both projects finished. Then we'll pick other agencies that have some challenges with their books or record keeping, and we'll try to roll them out the next two years.